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Sweet Deal Drums

Sweet Deal Drums

Based in Leeds, Sweet Deal Drums is the UK distributor for Amedia Cymbals and Balbex Drum Sticks.

The business was established in 2023, building on the success of Full Circle Percussion, passed on to Kev and Su Reid by business owner Alex Lindley.

Music Instrument New’s Andy Hughes spoke to Kev and Su to get the background and details about this new and thriving business.

How is the business going?

Kev – It’s going really well, we are noticing a slow build in our customers week on week, which is ideal, it gives us a chance to adapt nice and steadily, so we are very happy with the way everything is going.

How did the business start?

Kev– I was using both brands, Balbex Sticks and Amedia Cymbals, for about eight or nine years before we took over the company. Alex Lindley, was operating as a distributor, and he met loads of bands through his role doing that, and he was doing quite a lot of drum tech work with a number of bands and he really enjoyed it. Obviously, he wasn’t in a position to be posting kit out to drummers who were ordering, and I didn’t want to lose my supply of sticks and cymbals, so the opportunity sort of threw itself at us. I figured out, I know sticks and cymbals, and my wife knows business, this could be a fit for us. So, I approached Alex and suggested that we take over, and he thought we would be a great for the business.

Su – We have been running a fulltime drum teaching business together for about twelve years, and it felt like it fitted in with what we are doing.

Kev – I think in the current climate, every musician needs to be doing more than one thing in order to make a decent living. If you are only playing live gigs, you are unlikely to me able to make ends meet, unless you are doing that at a reasonably high level, and even drummers who are working at a high level still teaching on the side and making remote recordings. Everyone is doing as much as they can. I thought it was an opportunity to help guys who are not at that top level. When you are at the top end, you can get support and endorsements from major companies, and get kit and so on free, or at a reduced rate. We are not at that level, so we wanted to help guys like me, who are out gigging every weekend, doing a couple of hundred gigs a year and grafting away, but still have to buy their gear. This is equipment that I can sell from personal experience, and players can get decent reliable equipment that is not going to cost them a fortune.

You started in 2023, did it take a lot of courage to start a business when the world was still emerging from Covid, and no-one was entirely sure how things were going to pick up again?

Kev – It did to be honest, and in order to get any new business off the ground, you have to invest some money to get things going.

Drum Show team 2023

Su – The drum shops, the high street retailers were starting to fall away as everyone switched to buying on the Internet, and that was such a shame because everyone lost the locations to go in and try out kits before buying, and that was a really bad loss to drummers everywhere. That’s why The UK Drum Show is so great, it’s one of the few places now where you can go along and actually sit down and try a kit and get a feel for it, and hear how it sounds. There really is no substitute for being able to play a kit, and try some cymbals and sticks along with it.

Kev – I have got a really nice room set up with five kits in it, everything from one-up-on-down, to a mega kit, and people can come in and find the kit that is closest to what they play, and then I will set up cymbals for the sticks, and they can try and see what works. And people will say, I want a darker cymbal sound here, and something brighter and fuller on that side, and I can switch them out until they find the cymbals they like, that are going to fit with their sound on their own kit. I have a sufficient range of cymbals that I can find what a player will want, and if I haven’t got exactly what they need, I can order it in, and have it when they next come along to visit. It gives people a bespoke cymbal-location service which is valuable for our customers.

You had to contact Amedia Cymbals and confirm that you were taking over the business, how did that go, was the transition fairly smooth?

Kev – Yes, we did have to advise them, and because they are in Turkey. There were a few initial translation issues to overcome, but we got everything sorted out.

Kev and Ahmet Baykusak

Su – Alex recommended us to Amedia and confirmed that we were going to be the right people to take over, and that he was confident that everything would carry on as before. They trusted his judgement, so they were happy for us to carry on. And the same applied at Balbex, Alex approached them and confirmed that he was happy that we were going to take over and carry on the business, and they were fine with that. From there it was just a matter of us proving ourselves to both companies, getting sales going and generating some more business. We went out to Istanbul last month to visit the factory, and see the whole cymbal manufacturing process, which was amazing.

Kev – They were wonderful, they put on the whole process for us to see, they fired up the furnaces, showed the casts and the blanks, and the presses, and all the hand hammering it was a fabulous process to see. And we got to try out loads of prototype cymbals they are working on now, it was a great experience.

When you first discussed taking over the business, did you decide to opt for a web-based set up, or an on-street retail outlet, or a combination of the two?

Su – Initially, we decided to go with the web-based system because selling sticks on the internet is relatively easy, but we did want a retail business as well to fit in with our belief that trying out something before buying it is essential for drummers. I designed a website and I also set up the shop, I didn’t have any previous experience of doing either of those things, but we have got lots of friends with experience in those areas, so we were able to get some good advice as we went along. Fortunately, the Internet is your friend, you can find advice on just about anything. It wasn’t easy but we got there.

In terms of the face-to-face clients, with Kev having the studio he teaches from, we just arranged to see people by appointment, and they could come in and have a look and a listen, and work out what they wanted.

Kev – We almost operate a reverse system to what the old school music shops used to do. They were open all the time during normal business hours, and then they’d maybe sell a few instruments, and then on the weekend, they’d have pupils in and give lessons. I teach five days a week, and then people can come in on the evenings and weekends and have a look at the stock and have a chat about what they are looking for.

Su – Leeds is a great city for gigging musicians, there is a wonderful live music scene here, so we get people who are passing through, or people will let us know they are coming to Leeds to play a gig, they will pop in and have a cup of tea, maybe buy some sticks, try out some cymbals. And that’s ideal We are always very keen on supporting local and grass roots music and musicians.

Because this business is new to you, did you seek advice on branding and advertising and gaining a media presence, which are things that a lot of businesses concentrate on these days.

Su – Not really too much, we tend to be growing things organically. Alex did a really good job of building brand awareness, and we are looking to grow that and capitalise on it. A lot of it does involve social media which is really intense and time-consuming to keep on top of. Fortunately, the musicians that we endorse are very active on social media, and are spreading that message as we go, and develop. The UK Drum Show was amazing, obviously our first time there last year, and we got a lot of visitors to our stand, that was our first time with us running the business. We have good contacts with Natal, Kev has some Natal kits, and with their support we have some cymbals down at Marshall headquarters, in their studio. We are providing cymbals from the Freddy Gee Drum Camp which has a lot of educators attending. It spreads the word and brand awareness. We’ve only been going for just over a year, and we want to build at a steady space so we can develop properly and not let things run away with us.

Kev – It is a hugely competitive market, and we have looked at the pricing of all the other brands, and we believe that our prices are competitive, and that our product is as good as, if not better. We know that the level of quality bronze used in our cymbals is higher than in some other brands. That’s why when I started playing them, they sounded more musical to my ears.

Su – We look to keep our overheads as low as we can, we do have to make a profit obviously, to re-invest in stock, and to maintain the business. But we are keen to provide the product at a price that we know makes good sense.

Kev – The same applies with Balbex Sticks. They confirm that they use high-quality hickory, and they absolutely do. They don’t use a tree that will give them five sticks that are good, and five that will break after a few minutes. I have used loads of different sticks, and I want to be able to play a gig and know the sticks are not going to split part-way through, and leave me thinking I have just lost ten quid. I want to get through the show, and hopefully through a week of shows, and get value for the money I paid, and with Balbex, that’s what happens.

Are you able to keep stock coming in to meet demand?

Kev – With the Balbex Sticks, we carry a minimum of ten pairs of every stick we advertise, and there are sixty varieties. With Amedia, it’s obviously more difficult with cymbals, but we do carry one of everything, and we can order in for anyone who wants a particular model. Amedia are great, they will custom-build anything a customer wants to their specs in terms of size and weight. That is a really strong selling point for us.

Looking at the vast range of sticks you supply, and there is a real comprehsnvie range, is there any one spec that is a ‘go to’ model that a lot of people want to buy?

Kev – The 5A is the type that sells best. People use them for everything from jazz to heavy rock and everything in between, and they are really reliable. When we order, it’s regularly fifty 5A’s, and whatever else we need.

Su – What we have found is that when people come in, they will ask for their favourite stick and we can offer then something close to it try, and they may find that they pick up something a little different for a change.

Kev – We will offer a customer a bundle to try out, their usual sticks and something similar, at a good price, to give people the opportunity to try something different and see if they like them.

Drummers are famously loyal in terms of their kit and accessory choices, is it easy to try and persuade people to try different things?

Kev – No, but it’s something we do strive to do. Everyone wants the sticks and cymbals that their hero or heroine drummer plays, but when you have played a bit, and learned your craft, you understand that it’s not the stick or the cymbal that creates they unique sound, it’s the player. So, you can explain to people that the brand leader which is really expensive, can be replicated sonically by Amedia cymbals for a lot less money.

Su – That’s why we’re keen to link up with teachers and educators, who can explain to their pupils and contacts that Amedia are a great cymbal for a competitive price. Audiences don’t look at the brand name on a cymbal, they listen to the sound it makes. I can soon get used to a new font on my cymbal if I like the sound it makes when I play it.

Endorsements are a big part of getting a brand name out there, are you actively looking for endorsees, or are you waiting for them to discover you and come to you?

Kev – A bit of both. We do get players contacting us who have heard of our cymbals being played by players they are touring with, and we are also reaching out to players via Instagram messages, it’s all about getting the name of the brand out there, and developing a sense of interest, because from that comes the chance of someone trying our sticks and cymbals, and then buying. We are trying to encourage some open-mindedness, people who don’t want their band to sound like all the others, but are open to listening to something else, and see if they like it, and fancy that sound for their own band.

Su – That was, and is, the beauty of The UK Drum Show, you can try things and hear things, and have a think about something new and different.

Kev – That was how I found Amedia cymbals, I went round The Drum Show and tried every single cymbal I could, and they were the ones that grabbed me and made me want to have a set and play them.

Are you looking ahead, do you have any expansion plans in mind?

Kev – We want to be endorsing more players, and we would love to have high-profile and proactive players with our sticks and cymbals. We have global brands, but they are mostly linked to individual retailers, so we want to link up more of the international outlets so we can provide a proper support network with drummers who are on world tours.

So, we will be seeing you at the UK Drum Show this year?

Su – Absolutely, we are really looking forward to that.

Kev – We are looking to offer a great product at a great price, it’s really that simple, and we look forward to meeting lots of players there at The UK Drum Show. Please come and say hello, we’d love to see you.

ANDY HUGHES

Exhibit at The UK Drum Show 2024. Contact organiser@theukdrumshow.com